For many Canadians, “springtime” may as well be renamed “grill time”, since we take advantage of any warm weather Mother Nature throws at us and we try to do as much outdoor cooking as we can.
In fact, according to the 23rd Weber Canadian Grill Watch Survey, 40 percent of us barbecue dinner three or more times per week during the grilling season – but that doesn’t mean that we always give our food the time that it deserves. While most of us appreciate a top-notch steak or pork chop grilled to perfection, we don’t dedicate as much time to our food as grillers in other countries do.
If you’re looking to spice up your barbecue routine this summer, look no further than South America’s second-largest country, Argentina.
There, “the art of grilling starts with the art of real fire,” says Ted Reader, the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Smoking Food and Beerlicious: The Art of Grillin’ and Chillin’. “There are only some die-hards in Canada who cook over open fire,” he says, but it is possible to achieve similar flavours without a backyard fire pit.
Red Hot BBBQ Trends
While smoking and slow roasting may be the primary methods of cooking meat in Argentina, they’re still growing in Canada. We have a lot to learn, but we’re on our way.
Right now, according to the Weber Grill Watch Survey, Canadians tend to use smoking and slow roasting primarily only for special occasions.
The good news is that we’re already starting to see the light. “Smoking is growing like crazy,” says Reader. “The wood is what’s going to give your food lots of flavour.”
Want to get in on the action before your friends? According to the Hearth Patio and Barbecue Association, “water smokers are a good choice for beginners because they’re affordable and easy to use.” They can cost anywhere from $40 to $200 and can be fueled by gas, electricity or charcoal, with gas and electric options being the easiest to use.
Learning From the Argentines
Argentines take their time with their food. They cook over open flames and wait for hard woods to burn down to the coals before they even think about getting out their meat.
“Their barbecuing is all done over an open fire but there are many different styles,” says Reader.
Beef is one of their favourite meats and they keep their seasonings fairly simple. Many Argentines are of Spanish or Italian descent and their food reflects some of that influence. They frequently use kosher salt, black pepper and chimichurri. “It’s not super spicy, but it’s a full-flavour baste that they put on their meat,” says Reader.
How Canadians Do It At Home
Lucky for us, most Canadian households own a grill, and barbecuing over charcoal can give us similar results to cooking over open flames. “Cooking over charcoal brings out the best in your food,” says Reader, which is what every true meat lover should strive for.
You can buy specialty charcoals at many barbecue stores in Ontario. Reader likes maple, oak, and hickory, but also less common varieties such as coconut and pimento. It’s all about experimenting with which charcoal goes with what food.
Accessories Here and There
When it comes to tools, most of us play it safe. As the Weber Canadian Grill Watch Survey says, 88 percent of us ranked tongs as the most important grilling accessory we own.
Argentines, on the other hand, are turning their meat with flair. Reader says they use steak turners and cast iron or aluminum spears – much like a sword – that they stick into their steaks to flip them over.